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9 Reasons Why a Car Stalls When Put in Gear

Car Stalls When Put in Gear

The best thing you can do if your car stalls when it’s put in gear is take it to a certified mechanic who will be able to diagnose the problem.

A car stalling when it’s put in gear can happen to a manual as well as an automatic transmission. This happened to one of my dad’s cars with a manual transmission.

The second thing I recommend doing is just get rid of the car before underlying issues completely decimates the resale value – that’s what my dad did.

There are many reasons why an engine can stall when shifting the transmission into gear.

Let’s look at a few of them to help you decide the best course of action.

1. A Faulty MAP Sensor

If your car stalls when you put in gear this could be an issue with a faulty MAP sensor.

The Manifold Absolute Pressure sensor is what the car’s computer uses to calculate optimal air-fuel ratio by continuously monitoring the intake manifold pressure information.

What might be happening is that the MAP sensor is detecting load. When that happens, it creates a signal proportional to the amount of vacuum it detects in the intake manifold.

The computer then uses this information to back-off on the ignition timing to prevent spark knock that can damage the engine and decrease performance. It also adds more fuel to use in relation to the amount of power the car needs.

But since the engine is working harder, intake vacuum drops as the throttle opens wide and the engine takes in more air. This also requires more fuel to keep the air-to-fuel mix balanced.

So, the engine dies when you put the car in gear.

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Related Torque Converter Issues with the Solenoid

You’ll find torque converters in automatic transmissions – it does the job of a clutch in a manual transmission.

A torque converter is responsible for transmitting the torque from the engine to the drive line to move a vehicle forward or backward.

It’s also responsible for keeping the engine running when the vehicle comes to a stop.

A torque converter is made up of the impeller, turbine, stator, a clutch and fluid.

If your car stalls when put in gear this could be an issue with the torque converter solenoid lock up.

3. Issues with the Idle Circuit

If you drive a car with a carbureted engine, the reason why your car stalls when you put it in gear might be because the idle circuit isn’t delivering the fuel necessary to keep the engine running when your car isn’t moving.

Fuel enters the idle circuit through the main jet which supplies the engine with enough fuel to keep running when the vehicle is idling.

When the vehicle gets up to about 15 MPH the idle circuit stops working so that fuel can be supplied by the low-speed circuit which is the main metering system.

But if it’s not working properly, your car will stall when shifted into a drive gear.

4. Hydraulic Leak

An internal hydraulic leak in the transmission seals can cause pressure to be applied to the reverse and forward gears simultaneously which also causes the transmission to lock up.

Another possibility is the throttle position sensor or idle control valve.

5. A Bad Alternator

A Bad Alternator

One reason why the alternator could be causing your car to stall is because of a low performing battery.

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A bad battery can ruin a good alternator.

Auto parts stores like AutoZone offer a free battery check. If the issue isn’t with the battery, you can also have them do an alternator check.

I had this issue with a 2007 Hyundai Elantra. I replaced the battery. But even after replacing the alternator, I was still experiencing the same issues.

A friend of mine that’s a mechanic diagnosed that I was sold a faulty alternator. I got it replaced and the problem was gone.

I share this to let you know that sometimes you can be sold a faulty part.

6. A Faulty Fuel Pump

A fuel pump is designed to transport gasoline from a car’s fuel tank to the engine. It can be mechanically worked by the engine or electronically.

One way you can find out if stalling when shifting into gear might be due to a faulty fuel pump is that you’ll notice diminishing performance in your car’s ability to maintain speed.

This might also be accompanied by lowering fuel economy and/or engine overheating.

7. Clogged Air Filter

An internal combustion engine requires fresh air to work properly.

A clogged air filter chokes the engine which is what could be causing your car to stall when you put in gear.

The air filter in a car is usually located in the air box which is connected to the air intake side of the engine.

Between these components is the MAF sensor which detects how much air is coming into the engine.

If the MAF sensor doesn’t detect enough incoming air it sends this information to the ECU which compensates by adding more fuel for combustion causing the engine to run rich which could be causing your car to stall when shifted in gear.

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8. Low Transmission Fluid

Low Transmission Fluid

Typically, low transmission fluid won’t cause the engine to stall.

But if your car does stall you’ll mostly notice it when you come to a complete stop at a red light or stop sign. I’ve had this happen to one of my cars with an automatic transmission.

The stalling could also be because transmission lines are leaking and need to be replaced.

Even though this isn’t a cheap repair it’s more cost effective than getting a brand-new transmission which I’ve been forced to do a few times.

9. Pumping Loss

Every car regardless of the type of transmission has an engine RPM limit which is the engine speed necessary to overcome pumping loss.

Pumping loss happens when there is not enough power to keep the fuel injectors pumping fuel into the combustion chamber.

A clutch is the link between an engine, transmission and drivetrain like a torque converter in a car with an automatic transmission.

In a car with a manual transmission, when you release the clutch pedal the RPMs will dip a bit until the drive gear catches and off you go.

But if it dips beyond the RPM limit, the car will stall – this is what happened in my dad’s car.

If one component between the engine, transmission and drivetrain fails, it can cause your car to stall.